By Keith Idec
Eight months ago, Canelo Alvarez, Oscar De La Hoya and John Skipper shared a stage at Madison Square Garden, celebrating an unequivocal victory for each of them.
Alvarez, boxing’s biggest active star, and De La Hoya, his promoter, had secured an unprecedented deal for a fighter. Their five-year, 11-fight contract with DAZN could become worth $365 million, assuming Alvarez continues to win.
Skipper, DAZN’s executive chairman, had landed the subscription-driving flagship fighter that fledgling streaming service sought less than a month after it launched in the United States.
They also announced Alvarez’s DAZN debut that day – a move up to super middleweight for a fight against huge underdog Rocky Fielding. Alvarez annihilated Fielding even easier than most expected, but there would be bigger, better fights for Alvarez and DAZN thereafter.
Daniel Jacobs, then the IBF middleweight champion, had long expressed his desire to fight Alvarez and he already was signed to a promotional deal with Eddie Hearn, whose Matchroom Boxing is the primary promoter for DAZN. Demetrius Andrade, the WBO middleweight champ, also was aligned with Hearn and DAZN.
Of course, it was a former middleweight champion that piqued Skipper’s curiosity more than any other potential opponent for Alvarez. With HBO suddenly out of boxing, all Skipper had to do was commit a sizeable sum of billionaire Len Blavatnik’s money to Gennadiy Golovkin, and he’d have the high-profile fight that would produce more subscriptions for DAZN than any other boxing match.
Alvarez-Golovkin III would be the pay-per-view extravaganza, the kind that once cost as much as $85 on pay-per-view, that DAZN could offer for less than one month of Netflix.
Negotiations with Golovkin lasted longer than anticipated, but by March the Kazakh knockout artist had his own six-fight, nine-figure agreement with DAZN.
All Skipper needed was for Alvarez to beat Jacobs in what was perceived as a challenging middleweight title unification fight Alvarez should’ve won. Golovkin’s victory over untested Toronto middleweight Steve Rolls, a fourth-round knockout five weeks after Alvarez out-pointed Jacobs, was considered a forgone conclusion.
With their purses predetermined in their contracts, negotiations for Alvarez-Golovkin III shouldn’t have lasted long. Nearly a month has passed, however, since Golovkin knocked out Rolls, and we’re no closer to an Alvarez-Golovkin agreement for their third fight September 14.
Golovkin doesn’t want to fight Alvarez in Las Vegas again because he feels he didn’t get fair treatment from judges in their first two fights at T-Mobile Arena. The location, it turns out, is far from the most significant snag they’ve encountered.
Alvarez apparently doesn’t want to fight Golovkin again. And not just September 14.
Multiple sources have informed BoxingScene.com that the Mexican superstar never wants to fight Golovkin a third time. That could cause trouble among Alvarez, De La Hoya and Skipper because DAZN didn’t agree to pay Alvarez all that money for him to turn down the fights Skipper expects will help keep their business model sustainable.
Alvarez’s reluctance obviously has nothing to do with fearing Golovkin.
The younger, fresher fighter has already gone 24 rounds with Golovkin and won their 12-round rematch by majority decision. In that second bout, Alvarez more often than not was the one backing up Golovkin, who had ruthlessly taunted Alvarez for “running” in their first fight a year earlier.
Alvarez’s disinterest in this third fight has much more to do with his disdain for Golovkin, who repeatedly angered Alvarez before their rematch by calling him a “cheater” because Alvarez tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug. Whatever you think about the scoring of their rematch, Alvarez (52-1-2, 35 KOs) is the only opponent who has beaten Golovkin (39-1-1, 35 KOs) and he knows it’ll eat at Golovkin if this third fight doesn’t happen.
It’s hard to fault Alvarez for instead wanting to move up two weight classes to challenge WBO light heavyweight champ Sergey Kovalev (33-3-1, 28 KOs). Even though Russia’s Kovalev is 36 and has been stopped twice in the past two years, he is four inches taller than Alvarez, a career-long light heavyweight and is one of his division’s most punishing punchers of this era.
An Alvarez-Kovalev clash at least would fascinate fight fans, particularly those that aren’t as intrigued as others by a third bout between Alvarez and Golovkin. De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions president Eric Gomez also have discussed an Alvarez fight with representatives for Andrade (28-0, 17 KOs) and WBO junior middleweight champ Jaime Munguia (33-0, 26 KOs).
If Alvarez were to fight Kovalev, Andrade or Munguia, what DAZN would do next with Golovkin is a tricky issue.
DAZN already gave Golovkin a whopping $14.5 million to face the unknown, unproven Rolls in what was supposed to amount to a tune-up for a third fight against Alvarez. Skipper can’t give Golovkin another overmatched opponent, yet the former ESPN president also will try to be careful about not getting Golovkin knocked off by someone such as Andrade.
Golovkin clearly could beat Andrade as well. If Andrade defeated Golovkin, however, it would be almost impossible to go back to that third Alvarez-Golovkin fight, the foremost reason Skipper committed more than $100 million to a 37-year-old boxer.
The 29-year-old Alvarez also could lose to Kovalev or Andrade, which would diminish the value of a third fight against Golovkin.
Alvarez has said Golovkin should have to go win the only middleweight title Alvarez doesn’t own – Andrade’s WBO belt – to earn a third fight with him. Golovkin is convinced he has beaten Alvarez twice, and therefore doesn’t need to prove anything before they fight again.
However Alvarez and Golovkin feel, Skipper and DAZN need Alvarez-Golovkin III to happen – if not next, then definitely in Alvarez’s following fight, presumably May 2.
Otherwise, it’ll be difficult to justify not only Alvarez’s astounding deal, but also Golovkin’s gaudy agreement. By allowing Alvarez to turn down the fight that Skipper and DAZN need most to boost business, it would set a problematic precedent for the remainder of Alvarez’s deal with the well-funded streaming service.
Alvarez understandably has plenty of say when it comes to picking opponents. But DAZN is paying him massive amounts of money each time he fights, thus Skipper undoubtedly has the right to approve opponents.
Each man has leverage. Both are accustomed to getting what they want.
That could lead them to a standoff regarding granting Golovkin that third fight.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.